NIU might be heading toward a bleak future

NIU President John La Tourette, in the tradition of street corner prophets of doom, reminded us of the hard times that have befallen NIU in his state of the university address last Thursday.

While his speech, by many accounts, was not brimming with vision, new information or practical long-term solutions, it was not off-base. Recent budget cuts will bleed about $2.5 million from NIU’s budget this year.

Like all foul and dangerous things, this rolls downhill, and after hitting faculty, will come to rest on us in the valley. Students will get to see a small part of Illinois government in the comfort of their own homes next year when the tuition bill arrives.

How much will it increase? Officials won’t decide until March, and won’t get pinned down with ugly specifics until then. However, any half-wit accountant or higher education reporter can see that tuition will increase by more than the 4 percent recommended before the cuts.

The really smart gambler, the sick, compulsive types who bet on anything, will put their money on a figure of at least 10 or 12 percent. This would raise tuition by about $90 per semester.

Before you reach for your checkbook, or ski mask and pistol, add another fistful of small bills for students fees for the extra “services” the SA and others know you need and want.

This is what you might expect to pay next year for coming to NIU and not getting classes.

This might not matter for those whose parents are inside traders or Business and Industry Services people at NIU, but what about everyone else? Let’s follow the direction of higher education and see where it leads.

Picture NIU in 2017. In a scene straight out of Blade Runner, an older man is interviewing someone in a smoke-filled room of a crumbling Williston Hall.

A young man shifts nervously as he answers, unused to the lie detecting voight-kampf machine scanning every eye contraction. He looks like a shellshocked spitting image of Sid Vicious. He looks like a typical nihilistic youth, but one of the promising ones.

The admissions officer finally turns off the machine and welcomes the young man to NIU.

“You’ll be given nine hours of classes. Beyond that, there’s plenty to do. We have athletics, programs and counseling, and Three student life buildings. Your time here will teach you skills and serves a warehousing function. In five years when you get out, the person you replace will have moved up to fry cook or day manager. If you’d gotten a 29 on your ACT, you could have gone into research or management.”

“What’s that?” the younger man asked, pointing to a dusty volume titled “Liberal Arts and Sciences.”

“That’s a little before your time. The IBHE kept pressing us to do business training, research, practical stuff. We couldn’t afford to keep paying for that elitist nonsense. There are a few old professors who wouldn’t take the retirement buyout, and we offer a minor or two, but don’t waste your time.”

A little overdrawn and pessimistic, but you get the point. If only those in Springfield and Lowden Hall got it …